How to be Happy Authentically
How can I be Happy?
Have you ever seriously asked yourself that question? You're not alone. Many have searched through much self help advice, magazines, psychology and religion. Each has its place in our lives and each one of them has had a huge positive impact in many lives. Sometimes, the beauty of being afflicted with much trouble is that you get to look for and discover many truths and many wonderful solutions. Then one day you find someone who is faced with that same problem, and you can say: Hey! I think I may know of a solution for you!
Happiness is available and abundant- and of different shades too. To know whether we are on our way to being the kind of happy that really lasts, perhaps we should ask ourselves: What is happiness? What does it really mean to be happy? What are we really looking for when we say that we want to be happy? You'd be surprised to find out how little we really know about what happiness is. If we knew much, then we wouldn't spend so much time seeking it in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways. Perhaps we don't know the answer because we never ask ourselves the question. So take some time right now and ask yourself, What do I really mean when I say that I want to be happy? What in my heart am I searching for? After all, you can't go on a quest if you don't even know what you're looking for.
What happiness is not...
Some people define happiness as having their own way- Having all their plans pan out successfully, all their dreams come true, and all their desires fulfilled. I have come to be convinced that this is exactly how to be miserable. Because having our own way presumes one thing: that we know the right way or even the best way. But do we really? Often we seek blindly, following certain paths with the conviction that it will bring us contentment. We never stop to question these assumptions. Will having that job, or that car, or that promotion, or that relationship really bring me the fulfillment that I think it will? What need beyond the immediate practical needs am I trying to meet through this goal that I've set for myself? Is this really the best way to meet those needs?
The first answers that come up when you ask that question may be more stuff, more things or particular sets of circumstances that we're grasping at in order to fulfill certain needs. But we can keep probing and asking: Why do I want that? What will I get from that? We can do this until we find the answers that are not made of stuff or particular temporary circumstances like: a house, money, marriage and the like. Alternatively, we may ask: What am I afraid of? What am I avoiding? or Why do I want to avoid that? Then carry on with the questions until we find what we're trying to meet in our deep core. Eventually, we'll come to that need that is driving all our frantic efforts. Then we can face this need directly and begin the genuine efforts to meet it and to find the path to its fulfillment rather than running around on automatic pilot.
Personally, I have found, as have millions throughout History, that this deep core need in myself, is unconditional love.
Do your own questions, in a genuine slow meditation, and see if you can come to this conclusion yourself. Good questions make us stop, turn off the noise, and turn inward. They also generally lead to good answers. Such questions can lead us on to a new path to truth because they are themselves a search for the truth. Many good stories begin with such a question, which then leads to a quest which becomes the story.
I share my own little discovery next.
What Happiness is..
The happiness that has proved deepest to me has been that which allowed me to sit in and to know for myself, the value of my own being- value for my own sake. Translation: unconditional love is the only thing that can make us know, or believe, that we are OK. There are a myriad opinions about how we can find this unconditional love. There are many philosophies that say that we can give it to ourselves. I ascribe to a philosophy that says that we can't. What we can give to ourselves is self acceptance- once we understand who we really are. But unconditional love requires an ''other''. Unfortunately, many people seek this ''other'' in their parents, their friends, their romantic involvements, even their children, their jobs and many other things. They do find some satisfaction which can be called happiness. But it is fleeting and we can not always have these people around, much as we want.
This ''other'' of whom I speak, that can give this unconditional love is none other that the one who created you. Because he is the only one whose unconditional love can be proved to ourselves to our deepest satisfaction, in the deepest core of our hearts. We need this knowledge which I'm calling ''proof''. How can we do this, you ask? One way has been taught to us in a book called: Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Frances de Sales. In it, St. Francis teaches several meditations that can be done by anyone. Remember what we said: Good questions make us stop, turn off the noise and turn inward. St Francis' meditations are a series of these good questions which one asks himself in his heart, which have the great potential to send us on a wonderful new quest.
How to know that you are loved
The one meditation or question you can ask yourself to know right now in your heart that you are unconditionally loved is this: Of what profit is my existence to God? To the World? Am I really necessary? I may be important, but am I necessary? Think of the day you were born or conceived and ask yourself: Where does that date fall in the History of the world? Was anything really missing in the world before I came in? St Francis says: The World was already old-yet it had no news of you.
Some people boost their self esteem by telling themselves that they had to exist, that there's some need that absolutely necessitated their existence- That God needs them..?!? No, my friends. Your existence adds absolutely nothing to God, and your non-existence would take away nothing from him.
You exist for one reason- and for that reason only: God wanted you, not another. He wanted you, not for any need he had of you, but simply because he chose you, he loved you freely for your own sake. He gained nothing when he made you because God has no need. Infinity plus one is still infinity- There's no adding to God. Out of all the infinite possibilities of existence, he chose this universe, this world, this person- who is you- to exist at the moment in which you came into existence.
More so, God not only chose you out of all the infinite possibilities of existence present at that moment in which you came to be, God continually chooses you at every moment that you exist! Every moment! He sustains you in existence. He is at this moment that you are reading this, consciously keeping you in existence. No matter what you do, whatever mistakes you make, God does not stop continuously and forever- consciously choosing you. This means with an unfailing single-minded attention with which he always keeps you before his mind, he is choosing you at each moment. He's always with you, he never leaves you. If his attention were turned away even for a moment, you would cease to exist. But there you are. You are always loved, unconditionally so, at each moment. All the proof you need is you!
This does not mean the end of all problems, or some tears, or even difficulty, but it certainly makes for a solid start when we begin with a fundamental happiness in our core that comes from knowing that we are already loved.
- Two ways to be Happy: Ignatian Wisdom
I decided to do this piece on happiness, based on the teaching of a Spiritual master of the Catholic tradition, St. Ignatius of Loyola, because his advice has proved very useful and practical to me. He indeed taught about happiness. He taught that...
- Seven Saving Graces of Suffering
Sometimes the only way to get through suffering, is to remind ourselves of the precious gifts that will be ours, when daylight returns.